Breastfeeding is something moms-to-be usually assume they’ll be able to do. In reality though, not every mom is able to nurse directly from the breast when the time comes. Raequael Patterson, owner of One Pumped Mama, is a mom who falls into this category.
Patterson had intentions to breastfeed all of her kids, but that didn’t happen when her first son was born. He made an early entrance at 34 weeks and ended up in the NICU. Preterm babies are more common than they should be among Black moms. The rate of preterm births among Black women is 50 percent higher than that of Hispanic and white women according to Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. And while some babies in the NICU can breastfeed, it often depends on the medical condition keeping them there and whether they’re able to suck and swallow.
Aside from being born prematurely, Patterson’s son also didn’t have the sucking reflex he needed to breastfeed, so he had to be put on a feeding tube. Because she still wanted her baby to enjoy the benefits of breastmilk, she had to move on from her original plans and try something different.
“Distraught by this news, the registered nurse on duty told me that I would still be able to provide breast milk to my baby via an alternative method: pumping,” she tells ESSENCE. Apparently, 5.6% of women who give their babies breast milk do so by exclusively pumping according to the U.S. Infant Feeding Practices Study II.
Although some moms choose to exclusively pump for personal reasons or the need to get back to work, there are those who still long for the chance to nurse directly from the breast. Patterson not being able to breastfeed in that way for reasons beyond her control led to feelings of shame and grief.
“That took a huge toll on my mental health,” she says. “I believe I overcame it when I realized that I was still a great mom and still would be able to supply my baby with the antibodies in my breast milk and bond with him in other ways.”
Aside from a healthy baby, something else good that came out of the situation was an idea: a different kind of baby bag that accommodates pumps.
“One Pumped Mama, the brand, and its products were inspired by my breastfeeding journey and the need to feel organized and stylish as a mom,” Patterson tells ESSENCE of the collection of vegan leather bags.
“Being a NICU mom who exclusively pumped as a breastfeeding method, I realized that many products were on the market, but none that did not sacrifice style for functionality and versatility,” she explains. “There were no bags that allowed you to remove the breast pump pouch and obtain access to the bag from the side pocket without the pouch being a restriction.”
To solve this problem, she created a bag with a removable pump pouch. The goal of her bag is to provide a functional product moms can use for multiple purposes and one that’s stylish too.
“There seemed to be a huge divide between the bags created for women pre-baby and those created for moms who had to travel with their breast pumps,” she said. “It was important to me to create timeless bags that would make all women, including moms, love their bags regardless of their motherhood stage.”
The bags are also sustainable in the sense that they have uses beyond holding a breast pump. They can double as diaper, travel, makeup and work bags too. The bag can be worn in multiple ways too, be it as a backpack, crossbody, or shoulder bag.
In addition to crafting the perfect pumping bag, Patterson also provides support to other mothers who exclusively breastfeed through her book, Pump Mama Pump. She found resources for that category of nursing moms was limited, hence her creating the book. She’s also created an Instagram community for moms to encourage them on their journey.
“My’ why’ has always been to see mamas thrive in their choice of how they feed their babies,” Patterson says. “Looking at the support I received on my journey from my husband and family and the benefits breastmilk has provided to my children will always be why I encourage other mamas to stay true to their journey.”